Unique Melody takes its first step into universal IEMs and the results are mixed
The Unique Melody 2X is a dual-driver set of universal IEMs that uses a combination of a balanced armature driver for mids/treble and a dynamic driver for bass.
Along with the Unique Melody 3X, which was announced alongside the 2X, this is the first universal-fit IEM the British company has made, after making its name in custom-moulded IEMs.
Unique Melody 2X Price
Unique Melody 2X Features
Configuration: 2 way, 1 dynamic driver, 1 BA driver
Frequency Range: 20Hz – 18KHz
Sensitivity (1mW): 104dB spl
Noise Isolation: -25 dB
Accessories: 50″ Replaceable braided cable, Leather Carrying Pouch, Cleaning Tool
Warranty: 2 year comprehensive warranty
Unique Melody 2X Review
Better known for its custom moulded IEMs, such as the quad-driver Unique Melody Mage, Unique Melody has now turned its hand to universal fit IEMs, and the results are the Unique Melody 2X and Unique Melody 3X.
The two are distinguished by the former using two drivers and the latter using three, but both incorporate their own unique element: they use both balanced armature and dynamic drivers.
The 2X uses one of each while the 3X has two balanced armature drivers for mids/treble and one dynamic for bass.
In theory this should give these headphones good upper-range clarity as well as thumping bass.
The Unique Melody 2X arrive in style. A sturdy thick white cardboard box slides open to reveal a hefty, milled aluminium case in which the ‘phones are kept.
The case is impressively solid and looks the part too, though in practicality terms it’s not all that. For a start, the screw lid makes a horrible scraping sound as you undo it. Also, the inside is covered in a flock material that has a tendency to rub off leaving little flecks of black on the phones and accessories.
Most of all, though, it just doesn’t serve a practical purpose. It’s too hefty for a regular carry case and too small to fit all the accessories such that you could ditch the other box.
To counter the former of these points Unique Melody does now include a leather pouch with the headphones to serve as a more day to day carry case. We didn’t receive this in our review kit, though.
As for the headphones themselves, we have some concerns here too. We’re reviewing the clear finish model, with red and blue translucent caps, and, well, they just don’t look all that good.
The red and blue just doesn’t look particularly ‘cool’ – it’s just a random couple of colours. The clear finish of the rest isn’t great either.
In theory it’s great that you can see the insides of your expensive IEMs but in actual fact they just kind of look a mess. The glue used to hold the internal components in place is clearly visible and clearly very uneven.
You can also see the layer lines where the earpieces have been constructed using their 3D printing technique. All told, it just doesn’t look or feel all that special (the 3X are identical in this regard).
In comparison Unique’s custom moulded IEMs offer a huge range of colours and custom etches and the whacky contours of your ear moulding are better at hiding the construction giving an overall much better impression. Just see our review pair of Mage’s below.
The 2X are offered in a black finish too, though, and this does look much better.
Unique Melody 2X Accessories
Included with the Unique Melody 2X is a fairly comprehensive range of accessories. There are adapters for 3.5mm to 6.5mm jack and 3.5mm stereo jack to twin mono 3.5mm jacks. You also get a cleaning tool (brush and wire pokey thing) and a cleaning cloth, and of course there are a load of tips.
Unique Melody offers two different types of tips, with grey squishy foam versions available in three sizes and single rubber flange versions in four sizes.
The only thing missing is a volume attenuator like is included with Shure’s high-end headphones – very useful for getting a finer volume level than offered by mobile phones, in particular.
The 1.5m modular cable is of course included too. Although not much to look at we’ve actually found Unique’s cable to be the best we’ve ever used – yes, it’s really that good. The twisted construction totally avoids any further twisting or kinks while remaining lightweight and fairly low at transferring microphonics. It’s also just the right length.
Unique Melody 2X Fit
However, there is one big problem with the 2X’s cable, which is its modular design. On our Mage custom moulded ‘phones the simple push-fit coupling worked a charm. Every now and again the earpiece would work loose but very rarely.
On the 2X, though, the cable is less secure. This is probably due to their being less plastic material around the socket, meaning there’s more wiggle room, making it easier for the connection to work loose. Whatever the exact cause, the earpieces regularly became detached.
There’s another problem too, though it’s one common to nearly all over-ear cable designs. Unique has incorporated a malleable metal wire into the last couple of inches of the cable to allow it to be moulded to comfortably fit round your ears. We’ve never been fans of these and would rather have the cable hang loose over our ears, and here these sections are not optional. Not least because untangling the cable when it’s caught on the hooks can take an age.
Far more worrying than either of these problems, though, is the fit of the earpieces themselves in your ear.
For a start the earpieces are rather large so any sort of pressure on them – a hat, leaning against a flight pillow, etc – is very uncomfortable. We found the housing also can rest against the edge of you ear which can become a little uncomfortable. The sheer bulk of the IEM also means you need a very strong grip for them to stay in place, which brings us onto the second problem.
The second problem is that the sound tubes are rather wide and short. The sound tube is nearly 6mm wide, making it among the widest we’ve ever encountered. Meanwhile, at only 4mm long, it’s one of the shortest. This means that it’s difficult to get the tubes deep enough into your ear for the tip to get a good grip.
The Unique Melody 3X has a very wide sound tube even compared to the Sennheiseer IE8. In contrast the Sleek Audio SA2 (above), for instance, are only 3mm wide and nearly 1cm deep.
The problem isn’t just fitting them in, either, but fitting them in with enough room that the tip can expand into the wider bits of your ear while still fitting into the narrower bits, creating a proper seal and good grip.
Even the equally wide Sennhesier IE8, which suffer from the same problem to a degree, have sound tubes that are 7mm long.
What really cements this as an issue is that the included tips don’t spread back over the length of the sound tube but instead sit proud of it. This means that, with the foam tips in particular, you end up with a flexible blob on the end of the IEM which is difficult to direct into your ear canal.
The upshot of all this is that the foam tips were a waste of time for us – we couldn’t get a good seal, they were uncomfortable and the IEM kept falling out. A problem we’ve never had before with a universal-fit IEM.
That said, one of the pairs of the rubber tips did the job for us. It’s just that we prefer foam for its better isolation and reduction of microphony, and the fit still wasn’t overly comfortable, with irritation setting in within half an hour.
Unique Melody 2X Sound Quality
Any IEM is going to sound pretty awful if you can’t get a good seal and while we were trying to get the foam tips to work that was largely our experience. However, with the rubber tips we were able to hear these IEMs at their best.
Noise isolation with the rubber tip was good if not outstanding. Listening on an underground train is possible but there wasn’t a complete blocking out of the cacophony.
As for the sound of the 2X, well, there’s certainly a fair bit of bass. It really rumbles along, even at low volumes creating a satisfyingly lively performance. However, we would say it’s a tad overly strong with it masking some detail particularly when it really hits hard.
When it comes to mid-range, it is isn’t overly prominent, especially in the lower registers, flattening vocals and guitars a little. But it’s detailed and clear.
Both the 3X (which is reviewed here) and the 2X have a definite tendency for aggressive sibilants and a generally prominent peak in the lower high-range. This can become quite tiring as ‘Esss’ vocal sounds, cymbals and the fuzz of guitars can cut through.
However, here it is far less of a problem than with the 3X, with the overall tone here still being ‘scooped’ but with more of a roll off at the top end, making them a little less fatiguing. The result is that the 2X are actually far better suited to a wide range of music, with the 3X proving a little harsh for sonically dense music like rock, metal and orchestral work.
The downside of that roll off is that there is far less detail in the highest registers, resulting in a fairly flat soundstage. All those light, airy high-frequencies that give a sense of depth and real-worldliness to a recording are a little lacking here.
Unique Melody has tried something interesting with its Unique Melody 2X, combining a balanced armature driver and a dynamic driver to try and create a more detailed yet powerful sound. However, we didn’t find the earpieces particularly easy to fit or comfortable to wear. Also, the scooped sound, with a very prominent bass and sibilant treble makes them far from a complete success.
For the price, though, you do get quite a lot of earphone for your money so it just might be worth a punt.
- Huge bass kick
- Good value
- Not as harsh treble as Unique Melody 3X
- Bass maybe a bit too prominent
- Large earpieces make it difficult to find a good fit
- Not particularly comfortable
- Harsh sibilant sounds
- Overall detail and soundstage a bit flat